It’s challenging to get things done, especially with the changes you need to make.
Removing obstacles isn’t easy. But when roadblocks turn out to be the people who actually need to help you move forward, this can defeat even the best of initiatives.
Are your stakeholders aligned? Or are they just getting in your way?
“I’m ready to fire two of my key people,” said Jan. “They are the main holdup with the changes we need to make. If we don’t move on these, we will lose out on opportunity – and on the credibility we need with our board.”
“How are they showing resistance?” I asked.
“They began by talking to other team members on the side and pointing out what they saw as shortcomings in the plan. I’ve addressed this with them, but they still show reluctance to climb on board. I need their energy and I need their commitment.”
“What are you doing to bring them along in the process?” I asked.
“Bring them along? They were part of the visioning process. What else do I need to do?”
“If you are meeting with resistance, Jan, I’m curious about your process. As you worked together, did you allow for working through objections and considering various perspectives?”
“Patti, we don’t have time for that. I’ve got to push these initiatives through quickly. Otherwise, we will seriously jeopardize our financial health.”
“Well, if these two executives hold keys to moving forward, then you can’t do this without their support, Jan,” I responded. “Let’s take a look at how you can ignite them to action instead of dragging them behind you. If you don’t take the time to do that now, it sounds as if you won’t have a company to worry about.”
Jan shared that the company had lost significant market share during the first six months of the year due to the crisis. In order to remain financially healthy, Jan and the team had come up with a two-phase plan that would cut costs and generate greater revenue.
“When we discovered we could not recuperate quickly without making some big changes, we had to act quickly. We went offsite for a day, came up with a plan, and here we are,” said Jan. “These two executives are not alone in having to make changes.”
“Jan, may I share some perspective, here?” I asked.
“Anything – if it will move us along,” she said.
“Jan, these two executives are key to your success, right? That’s what you shared with me.”
“Yes,” Jan responded. “Without them, we can’t make some of the key pivots we need to make to recapture revenue.”
“Well, as we talk about the situation, I can hear your need to move quickly and your frustration. I can also hear that the support of your executives is paramount to succeeding.”
“Yes,” said Jan. “You are right. But where are you going with this?”
“Jan, your executive team members are key stakeholders. If you want to succeed well, we need to see how we can invite them to partner with you. Stakeholder alignment is key.”
“What would that mean?” asked Jan. “They realize that we need to take measures and act quickly. What do we do that we haven’t done?”
“In bringing stakeholders along, you must first see where they are with your ideas and what their concerns are,” I answered. “In this way, you would clarify what the gaps are and how to address them. But in your case, it sounds like you already know what the concerns are – at least, you are telling me that they are objecting and not aligning with your plan. Am I right?”
“Yes, I’m well aware of their concerns,” Jan said. “And I thought we addressed these in the meeting. It’s apparent to me now that we did not dig deep enough to surface more.”
“Jan, bringing stakeholders along is a process, not an item on a checklist,” I said. “You are right – a strategy meeting is just the beginning. Since you are aware of their objections, you can invite them to resolve these and align with you in one of two ways – your preference.
“You see, in order to bring people along, you actually have to be open to having your own mind changed – not just changing theirs. It’s not a matter of simply telling them what the plan is. It means being open to examining other perspectives and input. It means realizing that their thinking might make your thinking even better.”
Jan paused and sat back in her chair. “I’m listening.”
“You have a short timeline, Jan. It sounds like you need to get back in the room with everyone as a follow-up. Invite further involvement – ask for objectives and perspectives, giving them the end goal or transformation in mind. And let them work through it with you. Be sure you cover three things: (1) fears and concerns; (2) what’s in it for them; and (3) how the changes will make the company’s life better.
“You’ll find, Jan, that if you spend more time on this, you will recuperate time on the back end. Your stakeholders will have bought into the plan and will commit to it full force.”
I followed up with Jan six weeks later. She was pleased to report that the follow-up discussions had been powerful. She admitted changing her own mind on one of the ways to recapture revenue, and to seeing the value of pooling minds to come up with best solutions.
Do you recognize the importance of your stakeholders? Can you share the vision in a way that invites feedback and discussion? If you will devote the time to create such partnership, considering all perspectives and pooling best ideas, the results will be a win-win for the team and the entire organization.
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.